Thoughts on ePublishing–Harder than You Think

While I was out at CONduit, I was on a panel focused on ePublishing. It was well attended (as all ePublishing panels seem to be these days), and people had many questions. Enough that I decided I really wanted to write another post (assuming I already have written one, which is likely, but I’m too lazy to check) about the topic.

When you get right down to it, there are a slew of people out there who write books. Some have never finished one. Some have finished many. And almost all of them want their books to be published. The dedicated ones come to cons, hoping to find the secret to How to Break In–like there’s some special handshake or initiation rite, and that once you’ve done that, voila! You’re making millions and drinking tea with JK Rowling.

Then they discover that there is no secret. That everybody ends up taking a different path. That there’s some luck and a whole lot of hard work involved, and that in the end, it all comes down to writing, writing, writing. (Seriously. Even once you’re published, you still write write write. That’s what it’s all about, folks. If you’re thinking you’ll be published and then, like Johnson, Navin R. in The Jerk (“THINGS ARE GOING TO START HAPPENING TO ME NOW”), life will be different. Guess what? You’ll still be sitting in front of a computer screen, wondering if what you’re writing is garbage or not. Editing. Revising, Wracking your brain for ideas. It’s all exactly the same. I don’t want to disappoint you, but there it is.)

It’s at this point that many people these days start thinking there must be an easier way. Simpler. Smoother. And there’s the siren song of ePublishing. Free! Bahzillions of people will be exposed to your work! Put it up on Amazon. Amanda Hocking! You can approach it like a gateway drug. Put your first book up for free, and then when all the peoples are blown away and hooked, start charging the fools money! You’re make thousands! Millions!

Um . . . no.

Here’s the thing. You’re not the only one who’s had this idea. In fact, there are tons of people there already, trying to do the same thing. (In contemporary fantasy, there are 7,198 books listed right now. Tons of them are free. Why in the world is someone going to read your book? How will they find it? Let’s assume you’ve made an attractive cover (note: you can’t sort Amazon books by “attractive cover”). And you’ve categorized it well. Here’s what 7,000 pennies looks like:

Your book is one of those pennies. Yes, you can plug it on Facebook. You can Tweet til you’re blue in the fingers. You can email all your friends. Write guest blog posts. Lurk in dark alleys of the internet, peddling your book to every passerby.

And maybe some people will buy your book. For free.

I’m not trying to rain on your parade. I’m trying to be realistic here. If you’re an excellent marketer, then you’re one step ahead of the rest. If you’ve got a really popular blog, great. Just realize that every minute you’re promoting your book is one less minute you’re writing the next. And remember, it all comes down to writing. So unless you’re independently wealthy or have an abundance of extra time . . . ePublishing is going to be a very very hard road to walk.

In my opinion, harder than the road where you get your writing to a level where agents and editors want to publish your book. Because in the end, you’ve got to perfect the writing. When I was in band, we had a saying: “Practice softly, play loudly.” What it meant was that when you were just learning how to do something, it was often better to do that learning on your own. Not out in public where everybody starts to think of you as “the guy who can’t play his instrument well.” Once you’ve got everything down, you can come on the scene and wow them all. But first do the practicing.

The same thing goes for writing. I worry that a ton of people who want to jump on the ePublishing bandwagon are doing it because they want to take a shortcut to getting their books in the wild. Often, it’s the time you spend working, writing, revising, and agonizing over your writing that teaches you how to be a better writer.

You don’t want to take a shortcut around that. Trust me.

Anyway. Those are my thoughts, and I’m sticking to ’em.

Happy Friday, all. See you next week!

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